There comes a point in January, when the post Christmas catch ups are had, that latest trip home seems like a million years ago and the typical desert expat starts wishing the year away. I don’t mean it’s unbearable, a slog or there is pure desperation to get out, but there is a definite moment when the planning heads go on and we start to have markers in the calendar. We haven’t even finished January and I bet that most have up to September all planned out! So as Hubs and I are joining this bandwagon and trying to pin down our plans, I ask myself it this really necessary or just a desert thing?
When I think back in my life, I have never been a spontaneous kinda gal, those Virgo genes kick in and planning is a must for my sanity. Island life added to this already neurotic tendency, as unless you had endless buckets of cash, flights to get off the island were expensive, busy and last minute.com was not an option. So here lies the start……
I soon realise that the further away from home you get, the more mindful of your plans you need to become. It’s not just pressure from my own crazy inner voice, but from friends and family all wanting to know the next time you would be swooping into their lives for the annual reunion. This is immense pressure, as whilst you love seeing them, you also have to weigh up the financial aspect and what else you could do with that money and time. Harsh? But its true, if the shoe was on the other foot would you spend a £1000 on a flight home or go somewhere fabulous?
Life in Kuwait, seems to have some definitive markers, moments when you are almost expected to leave with the masses. February is national and liberation days, which I can honestly say 90% of the expats I know, never stay for, taking advantage of some early 2019 R&R and leaving the locals to celebrate, with road blocks, street parties, water flights and all night festivities. So like so many, we always plan a trip in the first 7 weeks of the year and it’s decided before the previous one has ended!
Ramadan of course plays a huge part in our life in the desert. With the holy month shifting a few weeks every year, it ultimately pushes schedules into huge changes. When it falls at the start of the summer break, the obvious mass exodus will occur, but as the two become out of line, the summer break plans seem to be more important. Eid follows Ramadan and is usually a three-day public holiday (depending on where is falls) which many expats take advantage of. But as everyone has the same idea, supply and demand increases, flight & hotel availability lessens and its seems like my whole Expat circle end up in Dubai.
There we have it, already half way through the year and the dreaded summer break encroaches. I say dreaded as it seems to be the largest debate amongst us desert girls. The ones with kids, want to escape the extreme summer heat and fill the kids days with outdoor activities. The ones sans the little monkeys, debate when is the best time to go, bearing in mind NO ONE is here in August. Then there’s me, I don’t have anywhere really to go. We have no house in our home country to escape to, no holiday home in the European sunshine, no kids moaning they’re bored for 9 weeks and who actually don’t really want to go anywhere. The issue I have is that socially June to September are deadly quiet. I can honestly say there is barely a soul left in Kuwait and the soaring summer temperatures mean you are isolated to air con induced activity, so my usual plan is to head back to my sunny island haven.
Whilst this is lovely, and wow last summers weather was incredible, and I get to spend lovely quality time with my family, it was 4 weeks away from Hubs. Something neither of us relish and here lies the problem. This is a universal problem for those that choose to spend the whole 9 week break out of Kuwait. The husbands will catch up with the family for maybe 2 of those 9 but ultimately, the desert is filled with sad looking men, who live on noodles, Talabat (Desert takeaway app) and endless hours in the gym. So what do you do? As each summer approaches there is a general consensus that less and less of us are spending it back with the family in our home countries. The endless weeks of sofa surfing, driving around from house to house, trying to shoe horn into established family routines, has become less appealing. The longer you are away, the more at home you feel in your host country and the place you feel more in tune with.
So the debate rages on, how long is long enough without offending people, but I’m sure come the middle of March everyone will have decided on their summer plans and returning September from wherever they spend 9 weeks. The flip side, is they will spend most of September saying that whatever they decided wasn’t perfect and it will be different next year………
Just like that, Christmas will be on people’s minds and with it those most expensive flights of the year. It will need to be booked fast (if they haven’t already over the summer months). There will be a handful of those that will stay put, husbands having to take “their turn” to work and wives will bustle around making sure that it’s as perfect as it can be. For those escaping, the Kuwait London flight becomes like a Jersey London flight, everyone knows everyone, everyone has a similar plan and most will be returning at the last possible moment for school term. At this point. Christmas is the only thing Hubs and I have planned! Not surprisingly that one half of this couple is Christmas obsessed and it was my only condition of moving to Kuwait, was I would get Christmas out of the desert, so come January 2nd discussions are already being had, much to his dismay.
Are we wishing the year away? I don’t feel like I am, but as I write this it does become very apparent that once you have plotted these markers out, the year does seem incredibly short and I know it will fly by. The fact of the matter is, that I don’t think I could do it any other way. Being aware of peaks in expat travel, means that prices do rise, so planning ends up being crucial. The balance of vacation time and family time needs to be struck, they need to understand that coming back to visit and running around seeing everyone isn’t always a vacation and whilst to the. it seems like we’re on “permanent vacation” its not that simple.
My passing comment to you dear readers is…..To those who are eagerly awaiting your expat family member to book their flight to see you, perhaps anticipate the hard decisions they are trying to make and don’t take it personally, if perhaps this time, they do something different. To my fellow expats that are weighing up what is the best scenario, remember that you made this move for you and no one else. Moving away doesn’t always mean that you have to fulfil the same role you have always had back home. Plan the year that will give you the best experiences, build the best memories and cause you the least stress. It’s only 12 months, lets not waste them, expat or not.